Salmon Gefilte Fish Poached in Fennel-Wine Broth with Ginger-Beet Horseradish

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield: about



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Preparing gefilte fish from scratch no longer seems so daunting, with food processors and the wide availability of a variety of gleaming fresh fish fillets besides the noble triad of carp pike, and whitefish.

Except for the broth. That still requires real commitment.

You’ll need bones, of course, so you will have to befriend a fishmonger who will remember to save the trimmings. If you don’t have a high-tech air filtration system, you can resign yourself to a kitchen (and perhaps living and bedrooms too) smelling for several days like old Marseilles without the charms of Panisse and Marius. Not to mention constantly skimming all that fish foam.

Which is why I sometimes prefer to use a simple but intensely flavored vegetable stock made of wine and aromatic vegetables like fennel that complement the fish beautifully.

Forget the fish jelly though: no bones, no gelatin. I don’t miss it—it always seemed kind of a food oxymoron anyway. But the broth is delicious, and if enough is leftover, use it to slow-braise potatoes for an intriguing accompaniment to simple grilled or poached fish. Oded Schwartz calls the recipe “fish potatoes” in his book, In Search of Plenty: cover quartered peeled potatoes with the broth, add knobs of butter, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer slowly until most of the liquid is evaporated and t the potatoes are brown and fragrant. Serve hot with sour cream.

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For the Fennel-Wine Broth

  • 3 cups coarsely chopped onion
  • 1½ cups scraped and coarsely chopped carrots
  • 2 tablespoons mild olive or avocado oil
  • 1 small fennel bulb, coarsely chopped (include stalks and some of the fennel fronds)
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Salt
  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed (optional)
  • 1 Turkish bay leaf
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves and stems

For the Fish

  • 1½ pounds salmon fillets, skin and any bones removed and discarded, fish cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ pound sole, flounder or any other soft white fish fillets, skin and any bones removed and discarded, fish cut into 1-inch pieces,
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • SautĂ©ed onion and carrot reserved from preparing the broth
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • â…› teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • â…› teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons finely ground blanched almonds

For the Ginger-Beet Horseradish

  • About 1 tablespoon peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup prepared beet horseradish
  • Soft lettuce, endive, or radicchio leaves, for lining the plates


Prepare the broth: in a large, wide, heavy saucepan or 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven, sauté the onions and carrots in the oil over medium heat until the onions are softened and the carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer about half the mixture to a food processor and let cool (you’ll be using it later for the fish balls). To the saucepan, add the fennel, parsnips, if using, and the garlic. Mix well and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring, until the vegetables begin to wilt and soften. Add salt to taste and 1 cup of the wine, cover the pan, and let sweat gently for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the remaining 2 cups wine, 5 cups water, the peppercorns, fennel seeds, if using, bay leaf, and parsley. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If the broth seems weak, raise the heat to high and boil briefly to concentrate the flavors. Cool slightly, then strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer, pushing down on the solids to extract all the flavorful juices. Discard the solids. Rinse out the pan and return the strained broth to it.

Make the fish balls: add the salmon, sole, and garlic cloves to the onions and carrots in the food processor. Chop fine, using the pulse motion, but don’t puree. Put the mixture in a chopping bowl or on a chopping board. Using a hand-chopper or cleaver, work in the eggs, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. (Hand-chopping at this point incorporates air into the mixture, making it lighter and fluffier than pulsing in the food processor.) Stir in the ground almonds.

It’s a good idea to do a test for seasoning. Poach a teaspoon of the fish mixture in lightly salted boiling water for a few minutes. Taste, and if needed, add additional salt and pepper. Refrigerate the fish, covered, for at least 1 and up to 4 hours. (This step makes it easier to mold and results in fluffier fish balls.)

Prepare the ginger-beet horseradish: stir the ginger into the horseradish, adding more or less according to preference. Cover and let stand for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Bring the strained broth to a gentle boil. Wetting your hands with cold water, if necessary, form the fish mixture into 16 ovals, using about ÂĽ cup for each. As you form them, place the ovals on a platter lined with wax paper. Carefully slip the fish ovals into the broth and reduce the heat to a simmer. If the fish is not completely covered by the broth, baste with several spoonfuls of the broth. Cover the pot, and poach the fish ovals for about 20 minutes, until an inserted toothpick tests clean and the ovals are completely cooked through at the center. Remove the pot from the heat and let the fish cool in the broth. For maximum flavor, cover and chill in the broth overnight or preferably for 24 hours.

To serve, line platters or individual plates with lettuce, endive, or radicchio. Arrange two ovals of the chilled, drained fish attractively on top and accompany with the ginger-beet horseradish.